On Nov. 6, 2010, the Yale football team eked out a 27–24 victory over Brown in Providence. The real story of that game, however, was the Bulldogs’ special team performance, particularly that of a sophomore kick returner. Toward the end of the second half, Chris Smith ’14 returned a kick-off 79 yards for a touchdown to put Yale ahead by 10. Two minutes later, Smith received a kick-off on the 17-yard line and ran that back too, scoring back-to-back touchdowns in a span of 4:23.
Smith’s two returns — the first time in the history of the Ivy League that any player returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in a game — typified the dynamic playmaking ability that earned Smith All-Ivy second team honors on both offense and special teams in 2010 and 2011. Smith was unable to repeat those honors again in 2012, as he left the team before the season, with head coach Tony Reno citing personal reasons at the time.
Smith returns for his senior season this year looking to help bolster an Eli offense that ranked seventh in both scoring offense and total offense and last in pass offense in the Ivy League in 2012.
“I definitely feel like the year off gave me a new perspective,” Smith said. “It made me even hungrier to get back on the field and made me even hungrier to win a championship.”
During his year off, Smith worked as an intern at an investment bank in New Haven. He said that watching his team play without him to contribute led him to train more intensely during the off-season.
He rejoined the team for its workouts this summer, training and participating in seven-on-seven scrimmages against schools like Southern Connecticut. Yale will need Smith to recapture the skills that brought him to Ivy League prominence during his sophomore and junior seasons to provide a boost on offense.
“Chris is a dynamic player all around to begin with,” wide receiver Cameron Sandquist ’13 said. “He can kind of do it all as a receiver … he’s a threat on special teams.”
Sandquist added that in addition to his route-running capabilities, Smith has the strength and speed to provide a deep target for the Eli quarterbacks this season. Smith noted that he hopes to provide a vertical threat.
“The thing about our offense this year is it’s going to be so dynamic because we have so many different weapons,” Smith said. “It’s going to make it so the defense can’t really key on any one player.”
Not only does Smith offer promise of on-field benefits, he also contributes to the Bulldog squad on a more personal side. Older players welcomed the senior back as a good friend, and Smith said that he would like to be a leader for the team.
“Guys look up to him,” Sandquist said. “He helps out with younger guys, he’s a great leader on the field and in the meeting room.”
Smith said that his perspective has changed since becoming a veteran on the team.
Returning to the Bulldogs after a year away, what does he hope for out of his senior campaign?
“My number one goal above all else is to get an Ivy League Championship,” he said.
The Bulldogs will start their quest for their first Ivy League championship since 2006 when they kick off their season at Colgate on Saturday, Sept. 21.